How to Train a German Shepherd to Not Chase Cats

Medium
3-6 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

Sherry’s neighbor Sarah has a beautiful Siamese cat. Sherry has a beautiful German Shepherd. Unfortunately, the two animals do not get on beautifully! Sherry’s Shepherd chases Sarah’s Siamese at every opportunity. Usually, it is not a huge problem, as Sherry keeps her dog in a fenced yard, but yesterday, the gate was left open, and the Shepherd got out, saw the cat and chased it into the street. Both animals narrowly missed being hit by cars, much to Sherry and Sarah's horror, as they watched on, helpless to stop a near disaster!  

Even if you keep your German Shepherd in an enclosed area and on a leash, he can get loose sometimes, or a cat can end up in your yard. Perhaps you want to introduce a cat to your home. Whatever the cat scenario, teaching your German Shepherd not to chase cats is important for the cats' safety, and your dog's. A dog hell-bent on chasing a cat may not notice other dangers, like traffic, that could result in his injury as well.

Defining Tasks

German Shepherds are large, energetic, strong, intelligent, and often dominant and prey driven dogs. This means they are very likely to chase cats in their home, yard or neighborhood. Because of their size, a German Shepherd that is aggressive to cats can pose a serious danger to a cat. Even if your German Shepherd only wants to play, a 100-pound Shepherd that lands on a 10-pound cat can severely injure or even kill a cat unintentionally, not to mention the danger that both animals could encounter during the chase from traffic or by becoming separated from owners and homes. For these reasons, you are going to want to teach your German Shepherd not to chase cats. The appropriate response when your Shepherd encounters a cat in your home or neighborhood is to either ignore the cat or wait in a non-threatening and friendly position for the cat to approach him--that is, if the cat wants to. Cats can be rather uncooperative when your dog just wants to be friends!

Getting Started


To teach your German Shepherd not to chase cats, you will probably need to engage a cat. If you have a cat in your home, you can work with your cat. Otherwise, you may need to find someone with a cat that is willing to help out. Choosing a cat with a little bit of attitude, that is not afraid of large dogs, will help tremendously. A cat that does not run is hard to chase. Be sure, however, to protect both animals during training. You don't want your volunteer cat to be injured by an aggressive Shepherd, or even a playful one, and you don't want your Shepherd to end up with a badly scratched face from an irritated feline. Using barriers, leashes, and a hard sided carrier when working with the animals to provide protection is advised. Using treats or toys to distract and reinforce calm, non-chasing behavior during training will be required.

The Reinforce Ignore Method

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Step
1
Crate the cat
Make sure your “ volunteer cat” is protected inside a hard sided crate or carrier. If possible, find a volunteer cat that is not afraid of large dogs, and not liable to become agitated in the crate.
Step
2
Distract the dog
Introduce your German Shepherd to the cat in the crate. Keep your Shepherd distracted when he investigates the crate. Call him away from the crate, play with a toy, and provide treats when he comes to you. Practice tricks and obedience commands give your Shepherd a job to do.
Step
3
Block the dog
If the dog tries to get at the cat in the crate, step between your dog and the crate, then step toward your Shepherd to create space.
Step
4
Reinforce ignore
When your German Shepherd focuses on you, and not the cat, resume giving attention, play and treats. Wait until your dog learns to ignore the presence of the cat in the carrier.
Step
5
Increase access
Put your German Shepherd on a leash and let the cat out of the carrier. Continue to insist your Shepherd focuses on you and not the cat. Play, practice commands, and treat your dog for ignoring the cat. Redirect as required.
Recommend training method?

The How to Be Friends Method

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Step
1
Teach 'down-stay'
Teach your German Shepherd a strong down-stay command using positive reinforcement. Practice often and in a variety of environments until well established.
Step
2
Introduce cat
Use a brave “volunteer cat” or your own cat, in a hard sided carrier or behind a barrier, like a baby gate.
Step
3
Correct dog's behavior
Bring your German Shepherd, on a leash, over to the cat. When your German Shepherd sees the cat and lunges toward it, say “no” in a loud, firm voice and restrain with the leash by pulling to the side. Avoid pulling back on leash, which creates tension.
Step
4
Use 'down-stay'
Tell your Shepherd to go into a 'down-stay' position with the cat in the container or behind barrier. If your dog resists, create space between your dog and the cat until your dog obeys the 'down-stay' command. Gradually bring your dog closer as long as he obeys 'down-stay' until he remains in 'down-stay' in close proximity to the cat in the crate. When your dog is performing down-stay and is calm, provide treats praise and affection
Step
5
Release cat
Now let the cat out to approach your dog, if it chooses. Let the cat walk around and investigate your dog, continue to insist on the 'down-stay' position. Keep your dog on a leash or increase distance from the cat as necessary to achieve this. If the cat approaches your dog, let your dog sniff the cat and make friends, but ask your dog to remain lying down. If the cat ignores your dog, provide reinforcement in the form of praise and treats to your dog for remaining calm and staying down.
Recommend training method?

The Negative Association Method

Effective
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Step
1
Set up stimulus collar
Occasionally you may not have access to a cat to train your dog, but you frequently encounter cats in your yard or on walks. If your German Shepherd is aggressive towards cats and you need to establish not chasing cats before a pet gets hurt, fit your dog with an electronic stimulus collar and hold a whistle. Make sure the collar is on the lowest effective setting.
Step
2
Warn your dog
Take your German Shepherd out on a walk. When your dog sees a cat and lunges toward it, blow the whistle and day "no!"
Step
3
Provide negative consequence
If your Shepherd does not respond and continues trying to get at the cat, engage the collar.
Step
4
Repeat as required
Repeat until your dog learns that trying to reach a cat has unpleasant consequences.
Step
5
Use in an enclosed area
When your dog is in your enclosed yard, fit him with stimulus collar and supervise. When a neighbor's cat comes into the yard and your dog notices the cat and moves towards it, blow the whistle and engage electronic collar if necessary to discourage your dog from pursuing the cat. When your Shepherd has learned to avoid cats he will be safer if he encounters one while loose in an open area, as he will be unlikely to chase the cat and end up in danger.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

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